Feeding golfers is not the best way to grow the game

By Vincent Wang'ombe: Friday, October 4th 2019 at 05:00 GMT +3 | Golf
ANC Leader Musalia Mudavadi makes a swing at the sea link Mombasa golf course in Mombasa County on Friday,16th July 2019 during this year's Pre-Barry Cup (Coast Open) golf Championships. [PHOTO: Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

My grandmother (God rest her soul) or “Cûcû” as we fondly used to call her, used to spend long hours in her kitchen cooking one meal or another.

If one happened to get to Cûcû’s house long before a meal was ready, she would produce, as if by magic, some sweet potatoes baked in the ash in the fireplace or she would quickly roast some green maize.

“Something to quieten the rumbling of the stomach!” she would say.

I once asked her why she cooked so much food; “I cook for the road…” she would say pointing at her gate.

“The road has many hungry travellers,” she would explain.

Looking at most advertisements of golf tournaments from many golf clubs in the country, a visiting golfer will be forgiven for thinking that the most important activity is eating and making merry. The golf tournament never seems to get as much prominence as the food, drink and entertainment usually planned for the day.

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Is it a wonder that our rounds of golf are getting longer and longer? If we no longer see the golf competition as the most important element of the event, then the focus will remain on the “plenty of nyama choma” or the give-aways. A round of golf is defined as 18 holes or fewer if the competition committee decides to hold a nine-hole competition. The 18-hole competitions are, however, seldom continuous. We will usually have nine holes followed by a long break for refreshments, which any sponsor worth the tag provides, then a second nine.

As if the long half-way breaks are not bad enough, we are adding more “speed-bumps” on the golf course by giving golfers nyama choma on the golf course. We may as well go the whole hog by adding some alcohol on the course to add to the enjoyment.

What this long refreshment breaks do is make the round of golf even longer. The result of this discourages new golfers who don’t want to spend five hours on the course. A survey carried out by The R&A a few years ago found that taking long to play a round of golf is the one thing that discouraged new golfers from taking up the game.

The millennials, who are accustomed to instant gratification will find the game of golf too long if we continue to run competitions in the same way.

It may look like fun and games at the moment, but let us not forget the raison d’être of golf clubs; to run golf competitions. To remain sustainable, golf clubs must find ways to encourage new golfers. Cooking for the road kept people walking through Cûcû’s gates, but will it work for the golf clubs in the long run?

Wang’ombe is an executive member of Kenya Golf Union

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